Category Archives: Team Development
Many companies are using employee surveys and other methods to gauge the “temperature” of the company. But how many of them actually take the “temperature” of the individual employees on their teams?
I was privileged to work with an excellent mentor years ago from Britain. Mike was as proper an Englishman as you could come across and was an engaging leader in so many senses of the term. One of his strengths, a practice that I still use to this very day, is what he called a “One-to-One” or, more loosely, a “Temperature Check”. I have used the latter term more commonly over the years, partially as it plays on the daily functions in the hospitality industry, but also in using this as a true indicator of how hot or cold a particular person is in the organization.
The purpose of these checks is to drive down to the core feelings of the team, both individuals, and as a whole. It is a great opportunity to not only find out more of what was happening in the field, but to also build relationships and stronger working bonds that ultimately brings the team more close. To make the most of these checks, we discovered a few guidelines in order to make them most effective:
1. Make “Temperature Checks” informal and light. These are meant to be open communications. Have them in the team members’ area, not your office, or they become nervous and on the defensive that they’re being reprimanded. Have coffee. Ask how their family is doing. Set the tone for casual conversation.
2. Be up front in your expectations. Tell the staff person what you hope to get out of your talk. Let them know they can talk in confidence, with nothing to be held back, even it there is anything negative about you. Let them know your commitment is to make them, the team, and yourself better so work can be both enjoyable and productive.
3. Qualify the 3 F’s – Feelings, Facts, and Fault. You’ll be confronted with all of these in most every temp check. When the person talking says “I feel” or “I’m afraid”, ask them to clarify. Sometimes it’s based on gut rather than objective evidence. When specifics are given, pull out more detail to ensure the facts are accurate. When fault or blame is given, if at all applicable, take it yourself, for the team. This type of responsibility is a breath of fresh air, and will go a long way in bridging any trust gaps between the two of you.
4. Be honest. While it seems so self-explanatory, it’s just good practice. Any lies or embellishment will either be found out then or shortly afterward. If that is the case, you’ve undermined the enitre process, and wasted both of your time.
5. Under-promise and over-deliver. A basic customer service principle that applies just as strongly to this situation – because you are working with your internal customer. Making guarantees to fix something might seem all well and good, until other facts or forces beyond your control hamper you from making the solution happen as you told them. Instead, let them know you will both commit to finding a solution, and to keep them appraised of the steps towards resolving their concerns. Then follow through. By keeping them up to date, they see you are taking their concerns seriously, and respecting their input.
6. Thank them for their efforts. Leave the conversation making sure that the person knows their value to the company, and that you recognize it as well. Lead them to be inspired to better action, attitude, and trust by letting them know you appreciate them and that it’s a pleasure and a privilege to work alongside them.
Temperature checks can be great, informal ways to have a dialogue with your people and get their views on your culture and what’s working, or not. By following the above steps you can transform your culture, deepen employee engagement, and build stronger levels of trust by simply valuing your people’s feelings, thoughts, and skills.
Back in my formidable days of being a twenty-something manager, Jack, one of the senior leaders of our theme park department, would spend time throughout his days discussing various leadership and operational strategies with us. Whether you agreed with him or not, his insight was usually based on foundational truths and we had the utmost respect for him challenging our leadership mindsets.
One of the lessons I learned from Jack was how to seek team members who complemented each other. As a young manager emerging to be a more effective leader, my tendency, as was most of ours, was to hire or promote people who had a certain style, demonstrated a particular personality, or fit a specific mode. Jack worked with us to show how shortsighted that approach really was.
Building a team, he said, is like putting together an engine or a puzzle. Not every piece is cut the same, nor does every part have the same function. In applying his teaching over the years, I’ve come to learn how valuable this pearl of wisdom has become. Here are the values of why we should focus on a complementary team-building approach.
WITHIN A TEAM, NOT EVERY ROLE IS THE SAME.
In our food and beverage department in the theme park, we had many roles. Cooks, cashiers, stockers, supervisors, and prep cooks. Each required a different skill and a different focus. We needed to understand these roles intimately in order to realize the traits needed to perform the job properly. Just putting any person into the role could mean forcing a round peg into a square hole.
WITHIN A ROLE, NOT EVERY PERSON HAS THE SAME TALENT.
I would staff 15 cashiers at one of my restaurants on a given shift. As much as I would like them all to be great at suggestive selling, some of them were more focused on the customer experience, and others on speed. One of the strategies I used in helping build their skills was to schedule a strong salesperson next to a customer focused one, in helping them learn from each other in the course of their work. Not everyone can fire on all cylinders, but if I had enough salespeople, expediters, and smile makers, I could cover all my bases of what I hoped to deliver on any given day.
LEADERS NEED TO COMPLEMENT THEIR STAFF.
In the many years since, my focus has been on developing leadership teams that matched the needs of their people. One of my foodservice operations had a pretty well rounded team that focused on quality, efficiency, customer service, and regulatory compliance. But when the opportunity came for us to promote a supervisor, we chose a bright young woman for the position who was a stickler for rules and ethics. Many bristled at her promotion, but her growth and alignment within our team showed she could make a positive impact. At first, it was rough. But over time, the team took to her so well that they responded to her high standards and raised their game willingly. They admitted that Caroline was just what they needed to help them get to the next level of standards. Not only did the staff need her insight, the rest of the management team did as well as they stepped up their performance to stay on par with Caroline’s.
COMPLEMENTARY FITS EXTEND TO BEHAVIORS AS WELL.
If you have a basketball team of all great shooters, but none who want to pass to their teammates or help play defense, what percentage of games do you truly expect to win? A team of people whose behaviors fits together works more effectively than those who try to stand on their own. Finding behaviors such as teamwork, a willingness to share their skills, and abandoning the “it’s not my job” mentality will create a far better winning strategy than those who have an “eight-and-the-gate” mindset.
DON’T NEGLECT COMPLEMENTARY VALUES TO ROUND OUT YOUR ORGANIZATION.
Hiring the right people, who embody your core values, is vital to organizational development. What if your values were Respect, Customer Service, Creativity, and Serve Others but not everyone is strong on each one? If your candidates have the basics of your values in place, you might have an organization where your people who are great at Customer Service fill certain roles, and those who excel at Creativity work in a differing capacity. Or, as mentioned before, you might align complementary strengths within a team to round out the strengths of each value and ensure each team has people who champion all of your values within those spheres.
Set your organization and each team up to cover every base through complementary team-building. Fill in the holes and make the pieces come together. The best organization may not have the best people, but people in the right roles working together in a greater capacity for success.
(This article first appeared in Lead Change Group)
It’s a wonderful privilege to honor your people through the various Employee Appreciation Days and Weeks.
Whether it’s Nurses Appreciation Week, Administrative Professionals Day, Maintenance Appreciation Week, Customer Service Appreciation Week or any of the other recognized weeks, they give a tremendous opportunity to deepen the level of engagement in your organization.
And yet many, many organizations, and particularly the leaders of those teams or organizations, display a shameful treatment of their employees that reveal to all of their people how they truly value them.
Consider some of these actual examples that leaders executed to show “appreciation” for their people:
- Ice cream sandwiches. (Yes, that was it! That was all they received!)
- Spotify gift cards – for new accounts only. Most of the employees had existing or shared accounts and ended up re-gifting these.
- The Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts gift card with just enough on it for a free coffee, not even a Venti or a Latte. (This happens more often that you realize)
- Leftover food from first and second shifts. (We appreciate the people on third shift but don’t want to stay up late to make that extra effort for them)
- Company t-shirts, mugs or anything else that praises the company and not the employee.
- Cheap nail clippers, name badge holders, pens, hats that no one will wear, and so on (you get the picture)
- Holiday hams, but nothing for vegetarian employees
- Letting budget be an excuse for not doing anything special (“That’s all we have budgeted for the week”)
These very examples (and many, many more) are just some of the reasons why employee engagement scores low in most organizations.
Great leaders know that while appreciating your team is an every day, purposeful event, when it’s time to focus such as the various appreciation weeks, going above and beyond will go a long way in keeping your culture intact.
If you want to make your people truly feel APPRECIATED keep these following principles in mind:
- So something different each day and every day throughout the week. Food one day, cards the next, auction off some gifts another day … be creative. Mix it up day to day and year to year.
- Have all the leaders spend whatever time is needed to execute and host and serve. (One year our leadership team spend all night making truffles and bagging them for the staff)
- Be available at all times to personally serve and thank your people. If that means giving up sleep for 3rd shift employees, or coming in on weekends and nights, then that is what you need to do. Nothing is more impressive than when a staff member sees their leader traveling to the remote facility, showing up at 1:00am, or hopping in their truck or loading dock to meet them personally.
- Don’t make a fool of yourself. Long speeches, drinking, or being inappropriate with your humor will do more harm than good.
- Careful of making recognition fun that doesn’t connect. Watch your people for their reaction and change course as needed. Get employee feedback throughout the year for what they want.
- Know your audience. If you give gifts that no one wants or can use (such as the holiday ham to the vegetarian), or show appreciation that misses the mark (such as humor or fun events that people think are boring or in poor taste, this can backfire on you. Study and know your people throughout the year to find what the culture of the team will appreciate.
- Be there. Don’t schedule vacations, seminars, or board meetings during this time. They want to see you. If at all possible ride with them, work alongside them, or find a means to connect during their work week to understand them better as not just employees but as PEOPLE.
- Spare no expense. That doesn’t mean to be unwise in your stewardship of company finances, but to be cheap (or frugal or however you justify it) will only make the employees feel cheap and undervalued. So many companies skimp on training and other initiatives for their people, that you will make a huge impact in letting them know the company and its leaders spent decent money on them.
Engagement and retaining talent starts with appreciation. Not only during a given week, but in every day, make your people know that they are appreciated in the way that THEY, not you, want.